| Parshah |

Road Sage

Wherever there’s conflict, that’s Gehinnom



“But if Hashem creates a [new] creation and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them… then you will know that these men have angered Hashem.” (Bamidbar 16:30)


s the earth opening its mouth really a new creation? How is that different from earthquakes, which bury people alive? The Ramban explains that after an earthquake, the earth remains open, often filling with water. But here, Hashem changed the rules of nature and the earth immediately closed. He did this so that we’d understand the severity of machlokes. (Rav Elimelech Biderman, Torah Wellsprings)

My house sits on a dead end, facing three boys’ schools. During the day I work through a cacophony of recess, school bells, and basic boy bedlam. Still, I’ve gotten used to it. When schools were shuttered during Covid, I missed them.

Sometimes, though, it can be hard to love thy neighbor. My narrow cul-de-sac was never built to accommodate cars and school buses. I try to avoid driving during pick-up or drop-off hours.

On each day of Creation, Hashem saw “it was good” — except on the second day, because machlokes was created on this day, when the waters were divided. Although this division was necessary for the purpose of creation, it cannot be called “good” since there was conflict. Gehinnom and machlokes were created on this second day of Creation — wherever there’s conflict, that’s Gehinnom.
Even when there were only a handful of people in the world, Kayin and Hevel already clashed. They both wanted the Beis Hamikdash as their portion. They probably convinced themselves that this was a purely spiritual matter — but in truth, the conflict was fueled by bad middos.

Last week, I was running late for a doctor’s appointment. Grabbing my keys, purse, and sick kid, I hit the street just in time to realize it was 3:50. I had two minutes to get out and avoid traffic. I managed to back out, just in the nick of time. Or so I thought. As I turned to pull out of the street, a long bus began to pull in. I beeped, assuming he’d see me (and the three other cars behind me) and wait until we exited before he pulled in. But no, this guy swung his width into the street, effectively blocking any exit.

Now what? The cars behind me (now four) had the same question as I did, and horns began complaining loudly. What is this guy thinking? My thoughts were not friendly. Why is he snarling up everything when two seconds of patience on his end would’ve avoided the whole mess?

Mr. Bus obviously had another opinion. He beeped right back and gestured at the line of cars facing him to back up. Sure, he was bigger, but did that mean he was entitled to be first? Horns honked back, saying no.

I felt like adding mine to the mix. I mean, please, I live here! What right does he have to block my way and make me even later? I couldn’t even back up unless all (now six) cars in line agreed, and besides, why should I? He was wrong and we were right!

When Hashem created the world, He first asked each creation whether it agreed to be created. Each replied, “Yes!” The earth is a very physical object, so distant from the spiritual heavens. Yet the earth didn’t protest its creation and say, “It’s not fair!” It knew that this was Hashem’s Will.
One shouldn’t wonder: Why couldn’t I have been smarter like that guy and serve Hashem better that way? Great people realize that we’re each created perfectly, and through this, they’re humble enough to practice vatranus. Korach, who didn’t grasp this truth, was punished by being swallowed up by the earth, which did.

Rule of the road: He who’s biggest wins.

The long line of cars (seven!) started snaking slowly backwards, and the bus smugly pulled into its place. I pulled out, muttering to myself, questioning the sanity of all stubborn bus drivers, the administration of all three schools, and the municipality who dumped them all on a narrow dead end in the first place.

“Who are you mad at, Mommy?” piped up Shloime from the back seat.


“Myself, Shloime. I’m upset at myself.” Because I may have had the right of way, but I was so wrong.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 746)

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